When lovers spoil each other with flowers and other gifts on February 14, they often invoke Saint Valentine. But what kind of historical figure he is will probably never be clarified.
In the book of saints, three martyrs named Valentine are listed under February 14th. One is said to have been a Roman priest, the other a bishop of the Italian province of Terni – although the two Valentines could also be one and the same. The third is said to have suffered along with the Christian martyrs in Africa.
Valentine is usually considered the patron saint of lovers, who served as a priest or bishop in Rome or Terni. The sources of his life are unclear, but Valentine was probably killed in the third century.
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Legend has it that he rebelled against Emperor Claudius II by illegally marrying young couples according to Christian rites. It is said that after this he gave them flowers – the marriages had a reputation for being particularly harmonious.
According to other stories, a blind girl received her sight after receiving a flower wrapped in paper with the inscription “from your Valentine” as a gift from a convicted priest.
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While the exact history of Valentine’s Day is unclear, one thing is clear – the saint’s long reverence. Back in the Middle Ages, he was one of the most popular saints in Italy, and customs around Valentine’s Day also spread to France and England – you can read about this in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Ophelia sings about Valentine’s Day: “Tomorrow is Saint’s Day Valentina, well, it’s still early, and I, the maid at the window, want to be your Valentina.”
Even in ancient Rome, women were given gifts on this day.
Another explanation for February 14 as Valentine’s Day is more of a power-political nature: the church specifically attacked pagan customs in Ancient Rome. There, February 14 was celebrated in honor of the goddess Juno, the protector of marriage and family. Women were traditionally given flowers on this day.
This custom has been preserved – and the veneration has carried over to Valentine’s Day. Wherever and however this custom originated, it continues to this day and remains shrouded in mystery, like love. (AFP/AF)
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